Oh dear, elections are approaching

For weeks now there have been short election ads urging viewers to vote for a new party, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party. The really old ones amongst us, that is, people older than me, will remember another UAP which flourished in the interwar years in part because of a Labor split. But there have been no ads from the majors. It hardly matters, since the nightly news telecasts have abundant image and text about the coming election and the daily promises made by the leaders. But I guess we’ll see a proper Labor or Coalition ad once there is an official election date. [Since I wrote that, the Nationals produced its first ad yesterday.]

I have a really déjà vu feeling about all this. This is the way it has been for several elections now: vast promises, to every imaginable group that might swing a vote  or two, every health group (well, maybe not every one, there must be hundreds), consumers of all products and services, especially electricity, regional this and regional that, and an end to people smugglers, and more recently, climate change. And over the border from me, no more than five km away, there is to be another election, for the Parliament of New South Wales, which does have a known date, 23 March, only three weeks away. Clive Palmer doesn’t seem interested in that one  — at least there don’t seem to be television ads for the UAP.

I have been moved, in a sense, from one Canberra seat to another. I have known for twenty years or so, and greatly respect and like, my former MP, Labor’s Gai Brodtmann, who has retired. She was the MP for Canberra, now slightly altered and renamed as ‘Bean’, in honour of C. E. W. Bean, the historian of Australia’s military part in the Great War, and the inspiritor of the Australian War Memorial. No doubt the new member will be known as ‘Mr Bean’, in honour of another famous, though not Australian, male. I do not know any of the candidates for Bean, not that knowing candidates has much importance to me. My interest is in the likely outcome were each one of the major groups to attain power.

I’m not much interested in leaders, either, and never was. We only know how good they are after they have been in power for a while. Bill Shorten hasn’t had any experience as PM, while that of Scott Morrison has been brief. Having said that, he seems to me to be getting better as time goes on; more about him and climate change a little later. Who turns out to be good at top jobs is surrounded in mystery. Being a deputy for a long time helps, but is no guarantee. Harold Holt and Bill McMahon both had experience as deputies, but neither were, in my judgment, much good as PM. Bob Hawke had no experience as deputy but was made for the top job. Of course, he said so himself, so it must have been true. Julia Gillard was better as deputy than as PM, again in my own humble opinion. The top job is lonely, and the burden can be tremendous. A number of Premiers have resigned or retired because of the nervous strain. The cost in terms of family life can be large too.

I have had some experience of top jobs, but not at this level. It is not beer and skittles, and the amount of eating and drinking you have to do can be destructive. Someone I knew once described being at a dinner table with Princess Anne, who managed to get through two course of a formal dinner without eating either of them, but using her knife and fork with aplomb, cutting this and forking that, but never actually getting the food into her mouth. When the dessert came she ate the lot. I heard a senior Democrat in the US describe the eating that went on during a Presidential election campaign as ‘the rubber chicken circuit’. That didn’t make it attractive, and the chicken we ate on that occasion was not remarkable in any way.

What can we expect if Labor wins? Jubilation in much of the media, an increase in the number of public servants in Canberra, and a widespread expectation that the money tree will be even larger than the hopeful think it actually is. So many promises have been made that it will be difficult for the new Labor government to rein in the expectations. The new PM and the new Treasurer will be fighting, at least I hope they will be, to stop the first few Cabinet meetings becoming a total bunfight over whose pet schemes are to be funded first. It will be the first real test of Mr Shorten’s leadership capacity and nerve as PM. It hasn’t been hard for him to hack away at the Coalition — Mr Abbott provided an excellent role model there. It will be much harder for him to control his own troops and demonstrate leadership to the whole nation when he is PM — and Mr Abbott provided, once again, an example of the problem. A tough and able Leader of the opposition, Mr Abbott could not find the spark that turns such a person into the wise and sensible father-of-all. Menzies did, and so did John Howard, to a smaller degree.

The Coalition seem to be moving ahead a little in public opinion, though it still has less support than Labor. Governments will usually look better when the election gets close, because people are used to the people in power, and who knows what might happen if the other side gets in? Labor has some problem issues, in part because it too is a sort of coalition of left and right. If the Coalition manages to scramble back there will be a gnashing of teeth and a beating of breasts in the media, not unlike what happened in the USA when Donald Trump got home. ‘How could this have happened?’ will be the cry of woe. There will be cries of triumph on the conservative side.

What else? There will be a change of portfolios, and the PM will have that exalted feeling of having won an election when every pundit said that wasn’t possible. For quite a while he will be invulnerable within the Coalition. Will anything else change? I appreciated the PM’s performance on the 7.30 Report, where he simply repeated to Leigh Sales that Australia was doing everything it had contracted to do in the climate change area, and the result was working. Why should we do more? We produced about 1.3 per cent of global emissions. I would expect that to be the basis of the government’s global warming position thereafter, at least until there comes some significant shift in temperature either way. Labor has problems in this area, as it does with illegal immigration, and I would expect that Mr Shorten will try to find a form of words, in the fashion of Scott Morrison, that gets him off some more or less painful hooks.

As for Australia, I would expect things to remain much as they are, whichever party group wins. Our domestic politics is much affected by the world’s economy, the rate of growth in China and India, and, for the moment, Brexit. But we are comparatively rich and well-favoured according to most indicators. Long may that continue to be the case!

I will have the pleasure, for the first time, of voting without having to turn up at a polling booth. How the nursing home will organise things I don’t know. But there is always something new to learn.



Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • dlb says:

    “For weeks now there have been short election ads urging viewers to vote for a new party, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party”.
    Palmer’s ads have been going for a few months, if you are unlucky enough to watch cable TV.

    Palmer should have a candidate called Bean, he would romp in with a name like that.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Let’s hope that whichever of the two majors wins, it will be by a clear majority. If Labor need the help of the Greens to govern the climate policy will be reviewed to something like AOC’s Green New Deal and destroy the economy for no purpose.

    If LNP need the help of independents it will be no improvement to the present gridlock.

    I think Turnbull’s retirement did us all a favour and showed how easy it is to go downhill with independents.

    Doctors without borders can be as stupid as anyone else.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Unlike his predecessor, who was omnipresent, my respect forMorrison increases with every day his face is absent from the TV screen.

  • JimboR says:

    “he simply repeated to Leigh Sales that Australia was doing everything it had contracted to do in the climate change area, and the result was working.”

    ScoMo has been telling us we’ll meet our Paris commitments “in a canter” since he took over the top job.

    “Why should we do more?”

    A question best directed at ScoMo, given that last week he announced another $2 billion of my hard earned to help us reduce CO2 emissions. What happened to the canter?


  • dlb says:

    Yes, an election is on the horizon.
    12 coalition members are about to leave parliament.
    Grafiti on walls, rodents and ships.

  • Chris Warren says:

    It looks like – for the first time ever – that the ACT may well have zero Tories occupying either House of Reps or Senate seats.

    This is a historic turnaround. There are several factors.

    – A general move against the Right faction in the Liberal Party and ACT’s Zed Seselja suffers collateral damage.

    – Zed, himself, has made appalling speeches in Parliament promoting coal and tagging others as ferals wanting to send us all back to the caves.

    See him bloviate here: http://zedseselja.com.au/speeches/129-motions-coal-seam-gas-19-march-2015

    – Local community interests (partic. unions, environmental activists, same sex, refugee groups) have gained in strength generating cultural changes which feed into voting patterns.

    – Splits within the local Liberal party. (Residual angst over the knifing of Humphries?)

    – Rather pedestrian performance by Liberals in ACT local government.

    – Right wing Labor is capturing swinging voters otherwise needed by Liberals to gain a quota.

    – Zed’s lack of awareness over climate change as Canberra’s temperatures increase and produce a record summmer.

    – Possibly some changes in his own personal support base????

    In any case it looks like Zed will be Zeroed come May.

    • JimboR says:

      “local community interests (partic. unions, environmental activists, same sex, refugee groups) have gained in strength generating cultural changes which feed into voting patterns. ”

      The SSM postal survey may come back to haunt them yet again…

      From 2017: “The Australian Electoral Commission on Friday released figures it described as “extraordinary” that show 90,000 new voters – mostly the young – had joined the roll since the survey was announced on August 8.”

      Very few of those young’ns find much appeal in the LNP. But for Dutton’s SSM survey, many of them may never have enrolled. Speaking of Dutton, rumour has it he’s going to move to Ciobo’s seat of Surfers Paradise to avoid facing the voters of Dickson.

      • Chris Warren says:


        Yes another factor.

        Depending on when elections are called – each election has 3-4 years of young workers coming-in and 3-4 years worth of elderly voters exiting the rolls.

        And the younger ones quickly learn that they have to struggle with low purchasing power, precarious work, and high debt compared to previous generations.

        This will skew the electorate away from more market fundamentalist parties/candidates.

        With the latest scared rabbits fleeing from the LNP coalition, it is almost certain a political change is coming.

    • JimboR says:

      In spite of all the dire warnings at the time of sex with labradors, and babies and bath water, for most of us the only difference we’ll notice is a whole lot more young’ns lined up to vote on election day. I wonder what percentage of them will vote the same way as the angry old white guys.

      • spangled drongo says:

        That’s right, jimb. Particularly when those same little pillars of wisdom have been brainwashed by SJWs.

        And never forget, as Tytler said, “Democracy ends when the voters discover they can vote themselves the contents of the treasury. … From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”

        And Hayek on fatal conceit:

        “Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind (i.e. their own)”

        After working and fighting their tails off to improve western democratic civilisation, those old white guys should just pull their heads in, hey, jimb?

        What would they know?

        Be careful what you wish for.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Oops, it looks like ZED-Staff have tried to hide history, cleanse the record for the sake of the forthcoming election.

    Never fear, the record is clear:


    Please Zed, don’t hide …

  • spangled drongo says:

    Is blith suggesting he’s going to swing to the left?

    We in trouble.

    What’s a Tory, blith?

    • Boambee John says:


      A “Tory” is the name (a deliberate insult, not relevant to Australian politics) that Antony Albanese gives to those he hates politically. Naturally, like a well programned NPC, Chris takes it up with enthusiasm.

  • spangled drongo says:

    It will be very interesting to see whether we are smart enough to realise who is promoting the most climate BS in this coming election.

    The LNP with their “modest” 70 billion wasted climate target expenditure or Labor with their 470 billion disastrous expense at double the target.

    All to no purpose.

    Chris Kenny in the Aus puts it well:

    “Whether you blame our collective guilt or unbridled altruism, we are the only country on the planet doing itself serious economic harm in order to deliver climate gestures. And gestures are all they remain, because the indolence of the rest of the world means global carbon dioxide emissions continue to grow strongly (this year they will increase by the equivalent of twice Australia’s total annual emissions).

    “Think about that. We could shut down and evacuate our whole country and within six months global emissions would be back to the same level.

    “In the wonderland of our national climate debate, economic modelling such as Fisher’s is dismissed but the most alarmist climate modelling is treated like gospel — despite the failure of the climate to mimic it. There is a fundamental lie at the heart of the debate that no one wants to call out.

    “The falsehood is the absurd notion that policy actions here can have an impact on the climate.”


  • MD says:

    Don — Delighted to discover you are back and contributing again.

    I will look forward to resuming regular visits.

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